After several obscure,indifferent and easily forgettable exhibitions the De La Warr has at last put on a show of real quality and one that sits comfortably in this splendid art deco building.
Featuring more than 200 original illustrations from the Ladybird books (1953 - 76 ),the work reflects a level of talent and craftsmanship unsurpassed in this specialist area of art.
The pictures often depict an innocent world of everyone happy at their work,proud of their families and all contributing to a strong and caring community.
Its an ‘ideal’ that most people aspire to in their lives and one of the reasons this display will strike such a cord with so many.
I was amazed at the huge range of subject matter covered - from pictures of early learners building blocks to the detail of heavy shipping docks,from how cows are milked to how cars are made.
From the magic of the theatre to the monotony of the factory,from what to look for in spring to the excitement of the circus ring, and so it goes on.
Painted in watercolour, oils,acrylic and gouache, all the pictures are vibrant,colourful and incredibly detailed in their representational accuracy.
Its these wonderful images combined with humble storylines that enabled Ladybird to capture a young audience making learning and education such fun for children and so helpful for parents and teachers.
I visited in half-term week and the place was heaving with people,
I’ve never seen it so full, rather like being at a London exhibition of a famous artist.
So different from the norm at De La Warr where the odd person or two might escape the cold winds and scuttle into the art gallery for respite! Only to emerge a few minutes later mumbling their disapproval as they ascend the spiral stairwell to seek solace in cake and cappucino in the comfort of the café.
This was different though, a proper exhibition pulling in the crowds, not some whacky ‘art’ work substantiated by a meandering monologue trying to interlectualise its claim to be art.
Great art and craft does’nt need reams of text to support it, it stands up on its own, it cannot be denied.
I saw mums and dads keen to explain pictures to their children - that that’s what they did and how they dressed in the 70s and 80s, while grans and grandads remembered a time when you could leave you back door open all day and everyone helped each other more in the 50s and 60s.
Indeed a strong sense of nostalgia pervades throughout the gallery but this show goes way beyond sentiment with its huge diversity of subjects and areas covered.
All the paintings are good but some stand out as quintessential Ladybird - namely Harry Wingfield’s ‘Shopping with Mother’ pictures. In these an attractive and elegantly dressed young mother is out shopping with her two polite, bright eyed and inquisitive children and always being served by a lovely friendly and helpful greengrocer or baker or sausage maker ( butcher).
Its an apparently perfect world painted beautifully by an artist that has learnt his trade - draws superbly,understands anatomy, perspective, texture colour and tonal values and combines it all with the fluid deft strokes of a completet master at work.
So if your last visit to an art exhibition left you feeling baffled, bemused and belligerent this could be the perfect antidote - for I found it educational,emotional enjoyable and exceptional, perhaps you will too.
Wishing Tree Road.